There’s a welling up of pain that starts deep in your chest when you know you’re going to lose your shit and cry. Andy Riley knew exactly what was sitting in his chest at that moment, but he couldn’t lose it. He fucking couldn’t. No one even knew he was there, which was how he wanted it. He couldn’t make a sound because he couldn’t draw attention to his grief. He didn’t deserve to grieve the star that had fallen in the blink of an eye on a lonely freeway.
Andrew had loved that boy, that star, but not like he should have loved him. That’s why he’d been flying. Derek Roberts had flown down that damn black road then straight up to become just another patch of darkened sky.
No one knew what Andrew knew.
Andrew watched as the coffin was lowered into the ground and the parents grieved. In that moment he realized what it truly felt like to have contributed in destroying something good. Even had Derek lived, he never would have trusted the same, loved the same or touched someone the same way that he had Andrew.
Andy knew that boy had been the best he could have ever asked for, ever dreamed of, but he’d ruined everything by making Derek think he was, unfortunately for both Andy and Derek, second best. Andy fought to make him understand that he loved him, he didn’t mean to still hold on to Jacob so tightly in his heart. But it had been irrevocable. Now, it was forever.
A tear that he had struggled against rolled down Andy’s cheek as he looked at Derek’s mother, whose black dress must have been sweltering in the Southern sun. She looked very elegant and poised, until her gaze landed on Andy. She knew how deeply her son had loved Andy and she’d accepted it with open arms, though she’d never known Andy had been too cowardly to ever come out for Derek. Andy was pissed he had been spotted, mostly because he wanted to buckle under the sympathy in that wonderful woman’s gaze.
He didn’t deserve it. He was being a coward, still holding onto a hopeless crush for someone he hadn’t seen in fucking years and would probably never see again.
as other mourners surrounded Angela Roberts, slipping away before she could give him comfort he certainly couldn’t accept from of all people. He still wasn’t sure how he’d gone from trying to contain the welling pain in his chest while watching the funeral, to following the procession to the cemetery where he’d fought back vomiting on everyone. Visions of Derek’s tears as he’d fled their shared dorm room three nights ago filled his mind, and when he tried to turn his mind’s eye elsewhere it just focused on Jacob Chase.
Jacob Fucking Chase. Andy slammed the truck door hard and cranked the key in the ignition. Jacob had been one of his friends all through middle school and high school. They’d shared almost every experience together. And Andy had been hopelessly in love with him. It hurt to love the boy and know he could never have him, even when he was within touching distance every day. But Jacob had seen it.
One night after graduation Andy had not been able to stop himself from almost kissing his very straight friend. He knew love had shined from every poor of his body because he’d hoped that night was his chance. He’d had one of those inkling moments. He’d been wrong.
Jacob had shoved him back and run off into the night, much like Derek had. Andy called and texted, but he’d never seen Jacob again. Without that closure, even as he’d fell fallen hopelessly for the joy and brightness that was his college roommate Derek’s rising star, and even though that love was reciprocated more than Andrew could have hoped for, Andy had failed Derek. The unrequited hope that Jacob would one day come flying back into his life had remained steadfast. And he’d drunkenly called out Jacob’s name. After two years of loving that beautiful man, how could he do something so preposterous as to call out a straight man’s name? A man whom he had not seen in three long years?
Who destroyed a heart as wide open as Derek’s?
parking lot a few miles before his mother’s house. He changed out of his suit, stuffed it into a duffel bag, and then put on the gym clothes he usually wore after baseball practice—where his mother thought he’d been. He didn’t want to disillusion her. He had enough guilt for a dozen men right then and dumping that shit on his mother, while she was in the middle of a divorce from his piece of shit, abandoning father, was the last damn thing she needed. He’d caused himself his debilitating grief and he deserved to carry it around alone.
As he got back into his truck a single, body-wracking sob tore through him. He shook violently as tears streamed down his face, visions of Derek’s guileless blue eyes drowning in tears, his tousled hair, his expression feral, as he’d dressed and fled from the hurt Andy had shot through his heart. God, Andy would see that face for-fucking-ever.
He sat up straighter, shook the fuzziness of overwhelming grief out of his head and tried to pull it together. He would just have to suffer through his bone weary tiredness, the ache that only came from true grief, and he would have to ignore the way his lungs stopped mid-breath, as if trying to force him into experiencing the emotions he was not letting his brain focus on. He gritted his teeth. No more feeling sorry for himself. He turned the key in the ignition and headed off to comfort his mother.